How can I stop masturbating?

My problem is masturbating. I've tried to stop many times but can't.  How can I stop doing this?


Dear Friend,

Thanks for writing. It takes a lot of courage to send out an email like yours about an issue like this, even anonymously. Admitting that you have a problem and that you want to stop masturbating is the first and most important step that you can take. I hope it doesn't sound too crazy when I tell you that I am proud that you are seeking real freedom in your life!

You mention that you have tried to stop many times, but that you can't. What I would like to do is to offer you some really solid options of additional things to try that will definitely help. When something (whether masturbation or anything else) reaches the level where it is so hard to stop, it may be an addiction, or something close to it. Only you can determine the level of the problem for you; but in order to become free, radical steps may need to be taken.

I guess the first thing I want to encourage you to do is to stop trying to stop by yourself. You need help. I know that you already know that, since you wrote to me for advice. The best help I can point you to is Jesus. The Bible says that He was tempted in every way that we are, but never sinned. (Hebrews 4:15)

Therefore, I think it is safe to assume that Jesus may have experienced some form of sexual temptation. I know that might sound scandalous, but to me it is awesome. Being fully human, and fully a man, He knows what it is like to have sexual feelings and urges. How cool that our God knows what it is like to be one of us. Call out to him; cry out to him! When you are tempted, ask Him to be with you and to help you refrain. In this area, and in every area of our lives, we have a God who has "been there" and who therefore has tons of compassion for us.

I want to encourage you, as your first line of defense, to work on developing your prayer life. Learn how to pray, not only at times of temptation, but also when you are not tempted. I love that line from the Lord's Prayer "lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." That's powerful.

As a Catholic, I also know that Mary and Joseph are powerful sources of help in times of sexual temptation. Ask them to pray for you; the Hail Mary in particular is an awesome prayer. The Rosary rocks, too! Mary and Joseph are models of purity, and they love to help us. Develop your relationship with each of them. Regarding St. Joseph, there are several cool litanies, devotions, and prayers that you can find on the web that will help you to develop your relationship with him.

As part of your prayer life, I also encourage you to strengthen and grow in devotion in your sacramental life. As Catholics, we have regular access to the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist. I encourage you to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation every time you fall; this sacrament not only offers us the grace of forgiveness, but also strengthens us to avoid temptation in the future. There is a lot of power in that sacrament. I encourage you to find a priest that you trust who might be willing to meet with you regularly (maybe even once a week?) until this habit of sin is overcome. Such regular Confession will help you to increasingly dislike this sin and will allow you to regularly receive sacramental grace, which will help you resist temptation when it comes your way.

Pray for patience; habits like this often take some time to overcome, and it is possible that the temptation might (in various degrees of strength) be with you the rest of your life.  However, just because you are tempted does not mean you have to give in to the temptation, right?  Every time you are able to resist the temptation, be sure to thank God for the strength that He has given you to resist, and in so doing you will grow stronger in your ability to resist.  As you strive to cooperate with His grace and grow in virtue, know that God loves you more than you can possibly imagine.

Definitely don't forget the Eucharist. Go to Mass every Sunday, if you don't already do that. Try to find ways to go on weekdays, too. The more frequently you receive Jesus, the stronger you will become, and the more you will become like Him. If your parish has an Adoration chapel, I encourage you to visit Jesus there. Take advantage of every opportunity you have to spend time with Jesus and receive Him in the sacraments.

Besides prayer and sacraments, what has helped me a great deal in reforming my own sexual impurities and lusts has been spiritual accountability. Check out this article for my thoughts on this topic. Is there anyone in your life to whom you can be accountable? I would even encourage you to consider starting a men's prayer group, or Bible study, or accountability group. If your parish or a neighboring parish has a youth minister, maybe you could talk to him or her about starting such a group. The bottom line is that we cannot do this alone. We need help.

Recently, I talked to a friend about your email (guarding your confidentiality, of course) and this friend suggested the discipline of fasting. Have you ever fasted? This can be something as big as going for a certain amount of time without eating at all, or only consuming bread and water, or just giving up something you like (like your favorite candy, or French fries, or soda). Not only is fasting an excellent form of prayer which unites us to Jesus' suffering on the Cross, but it also is a discipline that helps us develop more self-control, which is obviously something you need in order to overcome your habit of masturbation.

I also want to give you the link to a very cool and fun resource page for you to check out. There is a ministry called XXXCHURCH whose mission is to help people overcome their struggles with both porn and masturbation. They have this crazy weird campaign called "save the kittens" which makes me laugh and is a little "out there," but it also gives us men a non-threatening way to talk about this issue with other people who have the same struggle. If you have a close friend that you trust, maybe you could make an accountability agreement to go on a "save the kittens" campaign with him. Think and pray about this, OK? The link to the campaign, which also will give you to chance to browse their website, is here.

There is much hope for you because you are humble enough to ask for help. I believe with all of my heart that God loves you, is proud of you, and wants the best for you. If you continue to trust in Jesus, cling to Him, and rely on Him, you CAN and WILL experience freedom from this sexual sin. You will need to stay humble enough to rely on all of the spiritual resources at your disposal, but don't forget that these are all ways that God wants to help you. He is with you at all times; don't ever forget that.

I am praying for you, my friend. Feel free to keep in touch, if you want to. I'd love to know what you think of this advice and how you are doing on developing your relationship with Christ and experiencing the freedom that only He can bring!

Peace,

Paul

PS One of our staff members has posted an additional resource on our website which might prove helpful. Check it out here.